Monday, April 1, 2013

In the loop

If the Goochland District 4 Town Hall meeting held on Monday, March 25 is any indication, folks in the county want to know what’s going on in local government.

Bob Minnick, District 4 supervisor and Beth Hardy, School Board Member for District 4 were ready, willing and eager to interact with their constituents, the presentations were made mostly by staff.

The Company 3 Fire-Rescue Station’s meeting room was filled with citizens who came to hear and update from county officials. Unlike last year, when folks in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District complained at length about proposed hikes in utility and ad valorem tax rates, they listened. Comments were generally supportive.

Attendees seemed to be mostly from the Parke at Centerville and Kinloch communities. These are the folks that worked very hard to elect Minnick and Ken Peterson in District 5 in 2011. Engagement of these new residents in county government is perhaps the clearest example of the unintended consequences of all that residential rezoning that went on about a decade ago.

County Treasurer Pam Johnson made a brief appearance to remind folks that this year personal property tax will be collected twice per year, beginning with the June 5 payment. That means half of the tax is due in June, the remainder in December. So, if you’re wondering where your personal property tax bill is, do not worry, it will be along in a month or so.

Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Schools—he’s been here long enough to drop the ”new”—explained what is going on in our schools. Lane’s boundless enthusiasm for Goochland School is contagious.

Attendees told Lane that they are eager to support local education. Lane promised to send purveyors of band fruit and other fund raising items to their doors. (For those eager to lend financial support to our schools, contributions may be made to the Goochland Education Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization, today.  Mail your checks payable to the Goochland Education Foundation to: Tom Deweerd, Registered Agent, Goochland Education Foundation, 2938-I River Road West, Goochland, Virginia 23036.)

Lane gave a thumbnail sketch of what’s going on in our schools from the achievement of our sports and academic teams to new curriculum additions designed to provide marketable skills to students who are not college bound. He also said that the school system welcomes citizen volunteers. Please visit the excellent school website at for more information and take a look at the “How to invest in our schools section.”

Lane also gave an overview of the proposed school budget. Details are on the school website and Lane and any or all school board members will be happy to respond to questions about it. The budget is online, in its entirety, another first in transparency for our schools.

One of the biggest challenges that Goochland schools need to overcome, said Lane, is the false perception that they are not excellent. In the next few months, the county and school system will launch a public relations campaign to raise awareness of just how good our schools are. This is intended to enhance economic development initiatives using a theme of “Goochland First.”

School Board Chair John Wright, District 5, explained that among metrics used throughout Virginia to evaluate and rank schools systems, Goochland schools consistently finish in the top tier. “What we are able to do with what we have is quite phenomenal,” said Wright.

County administrator Rebecca Dickson explained that, unlike its neighbors, Goochland faced the economic realities of the “great recession” a few years back by reducing the county workforce by about ten percent, combining some functions and being very careful with money. The supervisors have also approved new revenue streams, especially the EMS cost recovery program that went into effect on January 1. This applies funds collected from billing for hospital transport services to offset fire-rescue expenses including paid EMS crews.

Leadership attitudes also play a key part in the county’s lack of fiscal drama. “You can get a lot of things done with two boards that work well together and a cooperative school superintendent,” she observed.

Dickson reported that bills passed during this year’s General Assembly session will simplify some issues facing the county. Perhaps the most significant of these will now permit the county to add parcels to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District in a far less cumbersome manner that was previous possible.

The proposed county budget is also available in all its glory at The budget public hearing will be held on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. A vote on the 2013 tax and utility rates will take place on April 16.

Questions about development in Centerville were raised. One citizen objected to the hodgepodge of existing architectural styles including the “Russian nesting doll” house that grew to include an indoor tennis court. He suggested that the supervisors defer addressing the CUP for McDonalds until the new overlay standards are in place.

Dickson said that the county is getting a lot of calls about development in Centerville. She explained that the new, improved design standards will ensure quality construction while providing enough flexibility to attract new business.

Minnick made it pretty clear that the McDonalds’ will be approved.

New, improved design guidelines for the expanded Centerville Village overlay will be addressed, and probably voted on, at this Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting. (Note: this is a change. Going forward, the Goochland Planning Commission will meet on the first Thursday of the month.)These standards will be similar to those that apply to the Oilville Village. Although created to encourage a walkable community, new construction there, though of high quality, produced a cookie cutter subdivision and strip shopping center, with no walkable articulation between the two.

The supervisors are expected to vote on these standards before approving the conditional use permit for McDonalds. GOMM predicts all will be unanimously approved with little discussion among the supervisors.






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